On our trip to the Pittsburgh Ikea yesterday, I think I realized why I like it so much. When you mention Ikea, it's interesting to see the reactions you get. Some people are all about it, other people could care less.
They do a lot of different things. Some of those things are crappy, others are not. When I look around at what we've bought from there, I realize that I'm attracted to its simplicity and clean lines in a lot of what they offer, particularly the stuff that's customizable.
My first visit to a store was in the Twin Cities when Kara took us there a couple of years ago. Diana had stuff from there, I think a New Jersey store, but I was an "Ikea virgin" (complete with photo next to the sign asking if I was). I thought the whole cafe, showroom, marketplace and warehouse sequence was pretty cool, and we bought some minor things, including some LED lights I didn't bust out until a couple of years later.
When we moved to Seattle, the desk I brought with us did not fit in the apartment. It was just too big. One of the bookcases we brought had no home either. I figured we should check it out. A narrow bookshelf was a standard piece they had, but the desk stuff blew me away. There was no "standard" configuration at all. You combined the bits and pieces you wanted to build the desk you wanted. I remember spending years looking for "computer desks" to fit what I was looking for, and never quite got what I wanted. In this case, I was able to put together exactly what I was looking for. I'm typing at that desk now.
When we moved to the rental house, again, we needed shelving. I loved that the cube-style shelves came in a number of dimensions, and had no "up" side, so you could use them in any way you saw fit. Simple lines, no molding, durable without being heavy. My bro-in-law had a bunch of them too, and if it was good enough for his architect taste, it was good enough for me. We bought more of those for Simon's junk, too.
Then, just before we moved, I wanted a smaller solution to put the TV on, and hide away the video games and stereo. I wanted the tower rack to go away. One of the showroom models had a neat combination of parts that was perfect. I didn't know it until our visit yesterday, but the Bestå line is actually this infinitely configurable system of shelves, drawers and doors to make whatever the hell you can dream up. It's completely awesome.
There are a lot of things that Ikea sells that I don't care for. I never liked any of their living room furniture, until I happened to sit in a leather couch that Diana was raving about, and honestly, the loveseat may find its way to our home. I really like their kitchen components though, as they have so much clever stuff you don't see at Home Depot. Again, it's the simplicity of design that I like.
There aren't many consumer brands that I identify with. In fact, I've fallen so far from general consumerism that I can name only four that I generally have any commitment to (the others are Microsoft, Apple and Toyota). I dig Ikea.